Top 50 NBA Players: Toughest Omissions

Apr. 4, 2011; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum (88) dunks the ball on New Jersey Nets guard MarShon Brooks (9) and forward Jordan Williams (20) during the fourth quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. The Blazers won the game 101-88. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

Over the next fifty days you can find my rankings of the Top 50 players currently in the NBA right here at Saving the Skyhook. This might seem like it’s a whole lot to read, and admittedly it is, but you can space it out, enjoy the content, and get yourself fired up for the upcoming NBA season in the process. Tomorrow when I reveal #50, the fifty day countdown to the NBA season begins. By the time you reach #1 (I wonder who it is), it will be October 30th and you won’t have any more waiting to do.

I know it is my opinion, but still it wouldn’t be fair to you if you didn’t know what logic went into my decisions for the upcoming Top 50 NBA Players list. Think of it like the Declaration of Independence. That written document legitimized our Founding Fathers beliefs that the 13 colonies should be an independent country of their own, completely separate from Great Britain. I wasn’t there, but when King George III received the Declaration, I imagine this was his reaction: “I don’t like this, but I totally feel where these patriots are coming from. I appreciate them explaining this to me in a written format. I’m thirsty, I want some tea… Someone get me some tea damn it!!!” Something like that. Think of this as my Declaration of Independence, that way you don’t think I am disrespectfully forcing my rankings upon you. Feel free to enjoy some tea while reading my criteria and looking at the players who didn’t quite make the cut for the top 50.

1. Individual Statistics/Accolades
What was the players’ averages in the major statistical categories (NOTE: Any career best or playoff career best notices are for players with at least 5 NBA seasons or 3 playoff appearances)? Have they won any individual awards?

2. Status
What is their role on their team? How significant is that role? How well do they fit their role?

3. Team Success
Regular season/Post season records. Are they having an impact on their team’s win/loss record?

4. Under Pressure
How good are they in the clutch? Do they play better in big games or tend to disappear?

5. Reputation
How good of a teammate is the player? Do players like playing with him or is he despised? Does he do little things that make the team better or is he out for himself? Is he known as a hard worker and leader, or someone who doesn’t always give a crap?

6. How Do They Stand Out?
Do they have memorable any games? Is there something memorable about their game that defines them?

These are the fifteen toughest omissions from the top 50 list (In alphabetical order). You’d probably think that since I do watch so much basketball, making this list would be easy. It’s quite the contrary. The league is incredibly deep right now, so it was really hard to leave some of these guys out. At one point, all of these fifteen players were seriously considered for my top 50, but I ultimately decided to drop them.

Tony Allen
One of the league’s premier defensive players. Two years ago he took on the challenge of guarding Kevin Durant in the West Semi’s, and last season he spent time guarding Chris Paul in the 1st round. No, the Grizzlies didn’t advance past either round. But it says something that he gets the assignment on a 6’10 scoring machine, AND a maestro at the point guard position.

Ryan Anderson
Halfway through the season Ryan Anderson looked like an absolute shoo-in to make the top 50. He was knocking down 3’s like it was his job and grabbing offensive rebounds at a higher rate than even Dwight Howard was. Maybe the 2012 Most Improved Player should make the list regardless, but Anderson stunk so badly in the playoffs that I couldn’t get that disgusting taste out of my mouth when it came time to putting the list together. It became clear that in a roundabout way, Dwight Howard’s effect on teammates is similar to that of Steve Nash (we’ll get there shortly). Anderson benefited greatly from the attention that Dwight Howard drew, and his numbers in the postseason displayed that—16.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 44% FG in the regular season; 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 34% FG in the playoffs.

Nicolas Batum
Would it be terrible if I said that I momentarily put Nicolas Batum into the top 50 after he punched Juan Carlos Navarro right in the nards in the quarterfinals of the Olympics? No? I’m clear? Okay good, because I definitely did. Just to be clear, he would have permanently locked up a spot if he punched Rudy Fernandez instead of Navarro. It was without question the most badass a Frenchman has ever looked, even if it was a bit of a cheap shot. That wasn’t the only reason why Batum was considered for the list. He was Portland’s most reliable player not named LaMarcus Aldridge, and he would’ve fit seamlessly (and been able to produce), in this year’s OKC/Miami NBA Finals based on the fact that he is 6’8, incredibly athletic and can knock down an open 3 pointer. A 4 year, $46 million contract may have been a bit excessive, but in this era of the NBA a player like Batum might be a necessity.

Andrew Bogut
Once upon a time the big Aussie Andrew Bogut was one of the best center’s in the league. He had a developing offensive game and was one of the better interior defenders in the league. He even earned 3rd Team All-NBA honors in the 2009-10 season. Just as quickly as he was making the Bucks relevant and building a resume that would secure his spot atop the list of best Australian born players ever, Bogut also secured his name to the list of the worst sports injury videos you could find on YouTube when he dislocated his right elbow, broke his right hand and sprained his right wrist after slipping off the rim on a dunk attempt. Hey, maybe it’s a good thing I’m only 6’1 and can’t dunk. Since then, Bogut’s offensive repertoire has been mainly limited to lefty hooks, since, well, his right arm was basically shattered. He played in only 12 games last year, and was traded to Golden State. If (apparently a big if) he and Stephen Curry, both recovering from Ankle issues, can remain healthy, the Warriors could potentially sneak into the playoff race in the West.

Mike Conley
A young point guard who along with fellow “tough cut” Tony Allen gives the Grizzlies one of the better defensive backcourts in the league. I like Conley a lot. He’s shown improvement in each of his 5 seasons as an overall player and seemingly plays better in the postseason than in the regular season. I’d want to go to war with Mike Conley.

Anthony Davis
I wanted to put Davis in the top 50. I really wanted to. I still want to. Without an NBA body of work, I didn’t think it was fair to. Let me say this: next year when I’m still crazy enough to spend my whole summer working in this list, I’m confident that Davis will make the cut.

Tyreke Evans
A perfect example of a player with great offensive skill… and not much else. Statistically, Tyreke Evans has gotten worse every season he’s been in the NBA, and that wouldn’t be a problem if he was figuring out how to become a better player. But I honestly don’t think he has. It seems like Evans still hasn’t quite figured out how to have an impact on a game aside from scoring. Maybe it’s the team, or maybe it’s just his style, but I can’t put a player in the top 50 if his calling card is being a scorer and he only scores 16.5 points per game.

Kenneth Faried
How can’t you love The Manimal? First off, his nickname is The Manimal. How damn cool is that? Half man, half animal? Yeah, sign this guy up for the Manimal bandwagon. Second, his play warrants the nickname. This guy busts his ass night in and night out, and everyone got to see that in the playoffs this year when Faried upped his regular season averages– 22 minutes, 10.2 points, 7.7 rebounds per game increased to 27 minutes, 10.4 points, 10.0 rebounds per game—against the biggest front line in the playoffs. Faried was the 3rd best rookie in the NBA last year. Maybe he’ll never be a franchise guy like Kyrie Irving or a showman like Ricky Rubio, but Faried will keep busting his ass and making his team better.

Paul George
Of all players on the toughest cuts list, George, along with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday (coming up in two shakes of a lamb’s tail) have the highest ceilings going forward. When Danny Granger is out of Indiana, don’t expect the Pacers to drop off too much. George will be well capable of being the man in place of Granger.

Marcin Gortat
The Polish Hammer posted career bests in points (15.4), rebounds (10.0) and blocks (1.5) last season for Phoenix. This upcoming season Gortat won’t have the luxury of playing with Steve Nash, who’s made more careers over the last decade than American Idol has. It will be interesting to see if A) Gortat can continue to put up double-doubles every night without Nash, and B) If Goran Dragic can give a reasonable Steve Nash impression.

Jrue Holiday
Most likely primed for big things with the arrival of All-Star center Andrew Bynum. I would be very surprised if Holiday didn’t make the leap into the top 50 this season.

Ersan Ilyasova
The 2012 Award for Best Player That Casual Fans Haven’t Even Come Remotely Close To Hearing Of goes to Ilyasova. Ilyasova started out the season slow, but in the 33 games after Valentine’s Day Ilyasova averaged 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds, and posted 16 double-doubles including two 30-10 games, and a very Dwight Howard-esque 29-25 game against New Jersey. Ilyasova has an off chance of supplanting Luol Deng as the starting small forward on the All-Foreign Team by the end of the 2012-13 season. Maybe then people will start to notice him.

Brandon Jennings
Anyone else think the Bucks might be a playoff team this year? Jennings, Ilyasova, and Ellis (coming up in the next few days) are a nice little nucleus to experiment with for a year as long as Jennings and Ellis don’t maim eachother looking for shots.

Lamar Odom
Now that Kanye West’s future ex-brother-in-law is back playing in LA (this time with the Clippers), maybe he’ll be the Lamar Odom of old again. It was just two years ago that Odom was coming off a season where he was either the 3rd or 4th best player on both the NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers and the USA Basketball team at the FIBA World Championships.  

Amar’e Stoudemire
Probably my toughest cut, especially because he worked with Hakeem Olajuwon this offseason and that means a lot to an Olajuwon fan like myself. Maybe it shouldn’t have been so difficult. I think at this point, the name Amar’e Stoudemire is greater than the player. In fact, I think you might have been able to make that argument for Amar’e his whole career. Remember that Amare has always been a poor defender, a subpar rebounder (only averaged 9-plus rebounds 3 times in ten seasons) and had Steve Nash as a point guard for the bulk of his career. Factor in his chronic knee problems (robbing him of his explosiveness, the key to his success in the past), and his apparent inability to play effectively with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e just isn’t top 50 anymore. Sorry Corey Edwards. I had to do it.